Wait Before You Publish

It's almost too easy to self-publish these days. Finish your manuscript in the morning, and by afternoon it's an ebook.  I'm aware of authors who've done that.

They're responsible for some of the harsh criticism that's been leveled at those who self-publish.

Before you publish …


And before you edit … set the manuscript aside for at least a couple of weeks – or longer. What  you need is a cooling-off period, some time for your brain to forget what you've written – time so that, when you pick up your manuscript again, what you read is what you've actually written rather than what you meant to say.

The side of the brain we use in the white-heat of creation isn't the logical side of us that sees the flaws in our work – the misspelled words, the punctuation errors, the continuity errors and plot holes big enough to hide the Grand Canyon …
If you're reasonably good at writing and editing, you can do some of that work yourself. But … a caveat here … I've got more than 30 years experience both writing and editing – and I will not be the sole editor of my own work. I want other people to read it, people whose judgment I trust – and by that I mean people I can trust to tell me, with brutal honesty, what needs to be fixed in my manuscript.

If at all possible, you want a professional editor. You can find them with an online search … by checking out ads in writers' magazines. You may even find an editor in your local writer's organization. You'll want an editor who's a good fit for the kind of writing you do – someone familiar with fantasy, for example, if your book is in that genre.

In the absence of a professional editor, seek out other authors. Connect with a local writer's group if you can. And … friends and family can help a lot – if you can trust them, again, to be brutal in their assessment of your work. Without an editor – or even with one – the more sets of eyes that see your work, the better.

But you don't want Mom to be one of your readers unless you know she'll tell you that every page is full of misspelled words, or that the person you killed off on page 39 shows up again alive and well – without benefit of flashback – on page 240.

The need to edit before you throw your book up for the world to see cannot be over-emphasized. Especially if it's self-published. Sure, we all know there are books published by the big East Coast companies that are as error-riddled as many of those that are self-published.

But here's the truth: The reading public will judge you more harshly if you're self-published.
Besides, as a professional author, don't you want to give potential readers the best product you're capable of producing? Not just a book that's exciting with a grab-em-and-don't-let-go plot, but one that's written to the highest and best standards possible? 

The odds are that your book won't be perfect. Perfection is a high mark to reach.

But you should want it to be the best that you're capable of producing. 

A native of Tyler, Texas, P.L. Blair spent nearly 30 years as a full-time newspaper reporter before writing Shadow Path, book 1 in her Portals fantasy/detective series. Now semi-retired – and still writing (part-time) for a newspaper in South Texas – Blair divides her year between Sheridan and Rockport, Texas, where she has family. She is companion to two basset hounds, a long-haired dachshund and a cat – all rescues. She writes a regular column and is a book reviewer for myshelf.com, and writes occasional articles for the Wyoming Business Journal.


  1. Hi, Sandy! Thanks!
    It's nice to see you this morning.

  2. Oh this post is fantastic--one all writers should read.

    I know of authors who are in too much of a hurry to see their work published.

    If you can not afford a professional editor, then please, please join a writer/critique group. You will be so happy you did.

    I'm going to share this.

  3. Hi, Brenda. I'm glad you stopped by!
    Unfortunately, I sometimes feel that I'm preaching to the choir with posts like this ... You guys who stop and leave comments aren't the ones who need these little reminders.
    But I hope that maybe there are a few out there who might stop ... and think ... and edit before they publish.

  4. Exactly ...and I am one who is both an editor and a writer. You cannot edit your own material. You just can't, effectively.I like to think, though - that I have benefitted the writers that I edited, just as much as the editor who went over my books did for me.
    And nothing else that you can do as a writer will benefit you as much as putting the finished MS aside for a good few weeks before looking at it again.

  5. You make a good point, Celia. I've worked for newspapers for more than 30 years, mostly as a writer, but I've also spent my share of time in the editor's chair. (Writing is a lot more fun, believe me!)
    Even after years of editing other peoples' copy, I won't edit my own - except to give it that first rough polish before submitting it to someone else's eyes. I will catch - mostly - the glaring errors. But even after setting the manuscript aside for a while, I find I still read what I intended to write, which isn't necessarily what I actually did write.

  6. I totally agree. Writers should always get an editor to look over their work (or as Brenda mentioned, a crit- group). You can never trust your own eyes 100% as you will only ever read what you thought you wrote.

    Thanks for this useful article.


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